Hafsah Qureshi

HafsahQ

Hafsah Qureshi was born and raised in Lincoln. She went to Washingborough Primary School and then Priory LSST and is now a doctor working at Lincoln County Hospital. Hasfah lives in Lincoln with her husband and one-year-old son.


Hafsah Qureshi was born and raised in Lincoln. She attended Washingborough Primary School followed by the Priory LSST Secondary School. She is currently a doctor working in Lincoln and lives with her husband and one year old son. In a series of articles, she will outline why Muslims feel anguish and sadness at people thinking their religion is ‘evil’ and associating it with terrorism, and will try to dispel some common misunderstandings about her faith.


In the previous articles I mentioned the main beliefs and practices taught by Islam in an attempt to show that they include nothing to be feared and hated.

There are two concepts in Islam I should also mention, as they are recurrent themes in the media, and are commonly misunderstood:

Hijab

This term is often used to refer to the Muslim woman’s headscarf, but has a deeper meaning, as ‘hijab’ is a state of mind where a Muslim woman is modest not just through her clothing but the dignity of her conduct.

Yes, Islam asks women to cover their hair and wear loose modest clothing in public. However, they do not have to wear hijab in a private setting when with other women, children, one’s spouse or first and second degree male relatives. Moreover, Muslim men have a code of appearance too.

Muslim women who choose to wear the hijab do so with the understanding that it is a Quranic commandment, and that it pleases God/Allah. It is not worn to please men or to subjugate women, nor does it prevent women engaging in society. On the contrary, many Muslim women, myself included, feel liberated by the hijab, for the idea behind it is that that women should be respected for their intellect and contribution in society rather than judged on their appearance. How is this oppressive?!

Furthermore, a head covering is probably less alien to the West than one might think. Isn’t the Virgin Mary often depicted with a head covering, and don’t nuns cover their hair too?

Jihad

This term is unbelievably misconstrued, but what actually is Jihad? The word ‘Jihad’ has sadly become synonymous with ‘terrorism’; but ‘Jihad’ actually means ‘to struggle in the path of Allah’ – the ‘struggle’ to do good deeds instead of being lazy, even in the absence of immediate personal gratification.

For example, Jihad is when I ‘struggle’ to get up for work in the morning, when I really want to stay in bed, or when I fight the temptation to watch TV and instead volunteer for charity work.

Yes, part of Jihad, includes an armed ‘struggle’ in self defence against oppressors and tyrants.

This kind of Jihad however is governed by strict rules, and can only happen under the authority of a genuine Islamic nation governed by just laws and under fair leadership. The first Islamic community was established peacefully due to a community of people wanting to live by the laws of Islam and under the leadership of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

It was not established by war and bloodshed. And one of the key characteristics of a true Islamic nation was tolerance – people of all religions were welcome and felt safe to live there.

Muslim Spain before the inquisition demonstrated this well. The despicable mass murder of innocent people at a social gathering is NOT Jihad!

To summarise, ISIS and terrorists DO NOT represent Islam. They have killed more Muslims than they have non-Muslims, and every innocent life lost in this mess is a tragedy. Terrorists may have twisted verses of the Quran out of context, to brainwash vulnerable and religiously naive young people into joining them, but any ancient holy book can have verses misconstrued, as demonstrated recently in social experiments about the bible. The MI5’s own Behavioural Sciences Unit has found that terrorists are more likely to be religious novices, and that a well grounded religious identity actually protects against radicalisation.

Islam shares the same root letters as the Arabic word for ‘peace’ (Salam) and this is not a coincidence; for it is a religion that has peace at its heart. Islam teaches us to believe that Allah/God has no partners, and to worship Him alone instead of other objects, people or our own desires. We worship Him by doing good deeds i.e. fulfilling our obligations to Allah such as praying and fasting, and fulfilling our obligations to fellow man such as giving to charity, challenging injustice and being honest and kind.

I would encourage sceptics of my claims about the true teachings and nature of Islam and the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), to read the Quran and study the life of the Prophet for themselves, with an open mind, prejudice aside. You can visit www.plainislam.com or www.lincolnmosque.com for more information or to request recommended resources.

Furthermore, do not hesitate to talk to a Muslim about their faith – most Muslims will not be offended by genuine enquiry! If people harbour resentment and fear, showcase prejudice on the internet and social media, and refrain from open discourse with others, how will barriers and misconceptions be broken and bridges be built?

Hafsah Qureshi was born and raised in Lincoln. She went to Washingborough Primary School and then Priory LSST and is now a doctor working at Lincoln County Hospital. Hasfah lives in Lincoln with her husband and one-year-old son.

Hafsah Qureshi was born and raised in Lincoln. She attended Washingborough Primary School followed by the Priory LSST Secondary School. She is currently a doctor working in Lincoln and lives with her husband and one year old son. In a series of articles, she will outline why Muslims feel anguish and sadness at people thinking their religion is ‘evil’ and associating it with terrorism, and will try to dispel some common misunderstandings about her faith.


It is often cited that terrorist groups like ISIS are doing ‘what Muhammad did’. However, taking a closer look at the Prophet Muhammad’s life will reveal just how deviant terrorist groups are from his example.

The Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) was born in 570AD in Makkah, around the same time that Anglo Saxons lived in Britain. He was a shepherd in his youth and later became a tradesman, earning the nicknames ‘the truthful’ and ‘the trustworthy’ due to his honest business dealings.

He lived in a society where female infanticide was common, women were treated like property, the poor were exploited, slaves were abused, idol worship was rife (but financially incentivised for Makkans, whose city was a regional centre for pilgrimage) and obedience to the Creator, the God of Abraham, had been forgotten. These things disturbed and saddened Muhammad deeply, and he would often retreat to a cave to meditate; it was here at the age of 40 that the first revelation came to him from Allah through Archangel Gabriel, an experience that terrified him.

He thought he had lost his mind and sought refuge with his most trusted friend and companion, his wife Khadijah. She consoled him and pointed to his good character as evidence that is was not unreasonable for God to have chosen him as a Prophet.

The first 13 years of his Prophethood in Makkah were characterised by oppression and brutal torture of the Muslim minority for their new beliefs and their vocal stance against societal injustices. However, not once in those 13 years did the Muslims violently retaliate. In fact, after an attack that left Muhammad bloody and distraught, he simply prayed for the perpetrators’ guidance.

Quranic revelations during those years galvanised the faith and character of the Muslims. Muslim slaves felt liberated by the belief that they could be higher in the eyes of God than their masters!

The promise of Heaven in the Afterlife for the patient gave courage and hope to those being tortured.

Then in the 12 and 13th year of the Prophethood, the people of Yathrib (later known as Madinah), invited Muhammad and his followers to their town to escape persecution. Being familiar with the concepts of monotheism and the coming of a new Prophet, due to their close association with Jewish tribes, they were more inclined to accept the Prophet’s message. They eventually turned to the Prophet Muhammad for leadership.

This is how the first Islamic community under Islamic law was established and how the Prophet Muhammad also became a head of state.

Meanwhile the leaders of Makkah were outraged that the Muslims had fled, and sought to crush them. Thus, the Muslims bore arms in self-defence. Heavily outnumbered, the Muslims won. They were governed by strict Quranic rules about the etiquette of warfare, including; not destroying crops, not killing non-combatants including the elderly, women and children, not to mutilate the dead, and to treat prisoners of war with kindness.

Muslim defended six years of Makkan aggression, culminating in a peace treaty. It was only after this, that Islam expanded rapidly in Arabia. Envoys were sent to various tribes and neighbouring states inviting them to come and learn about Islam, and many people embraced it. At no point was anyone forced to convert by the sword. In fact the Quran teaches ‘there is no compulsion in religion’

(2:256). When the Muslims conquered Makkah two years later, following a breach of the truce from the Makkan side, no vengeful battle ensued. The conquest was characterised by mercy and forgiveness, even for Islam’s worst previous enemies.

Towards the end of the Prophet’s life, the northern empires of Rome and Persia, perplexed at the unprecedented unification of Arabia, began amassing armies against the Muslims. Thus the Muslims advanced northward to meet the threat. This, together with increased trade with neighbouring lands, is how Islam came into contact with non-Arabs and expanded into lands beyond Arabia in subsequent years.

In this 7th century world, seeking conquest of land for resources, pride and prestige was common. However, the Quran taught engaging in ‘jihad’ on the battlefield only to fight oppression and injustice.

Muslims in the west must take lessons from the first 13 years of the prophethood – his community were a minority in Makkah, and although they were oppressed, they were taught to be compassionate and courteous to others. The Prophet and the Quran did not teach the killing of non-believers to terrorise, nor violent retaliation.

The final 10 years of the Prophet’s life in Madina set the precedent for humility, mercy and justice in daily dealings, as guided by the Quran. People of other faiths were free to practice their own religion undeterred. Islamic teachings, set out over 1400 years ago, were remarkably progressive, challenging racism, nationalism, sexism, slavery, poverty, unfair distribution of wealth, arrogance and exploitation of vulnerable people.

They strongly encouraged education and scientific enquiry – inspiring significant scientific progress in the middle ages.

The existence of thousands of recorded teachings of Muhammad, rigorously authenticated through a science called ‘hadith’, make Muslims feel a tangible closeness to him, despite the fact he lived so many centuries ago. Muslims do not worship Muhammad. We believe he is a servant of Allah, just like the rest of us, but came to renew and exemplify the simple message of obeying Allah alone and being good to others.

Hafsah Qureshi was born and raised in Lincoln. She went to Washingborough Primary School and then Priory LSST and is now a doctor working at Lincoln County Hospital. Hasfah lives in Lincoln with her husband and one-year-old son.

Hafsah Qureshi was born and raised in Lincoln. She attended Washingborough Primary School followed by the Priory LSST Secondary School. She is currently a doctor working in Lincoln and lives with her husband and one year old son. In a series of articles, she will outline why Muslims feel anguish and sadness at people thinking their religion is ‘evil’ and associating it with terrorism, and will try to dispel some common misunderstandings about her faith.


Media rhetoric can often suggest that if someone is a practising, devoted Muslim they are likely to be an ISIS sympathiser and potential terrorist! This association is totally incorrect.

Indeed, to think that ISIS represent the beliefs and practices of all Muslims, is as absurd as thinking that the IRA represent the beliefs and practices of all Christians!

In my previous article I summarised the theological principles of Islam in an attempt to show that what Muslims believe is really not so outrageous.

In this article I will briefly outline the main practices taught by Islam, which are designed to help us remain conscientious and mindful of our purpose in life – to worship the One Creator and God of the universe, whom we call Allah, and to do good deeds to please Him.

They include:

Salah: To pray 5 times a day – to take a short break from our daily activities and reflect on our bigger purpose, renew the intentions behind our actions, and to ask Allah (God) for guidance. Each prayer takes 5-10 minutes and we can pray at the mosque, at home or in any other clean location, alone or with others. There is no religious hierarchy in Islam, an Imam (Mosque leader) is not necessarily higher in the eyes of Allah than a shop keeper. It all about who is purer of heart, kinder in deed, and more mindful of Allah.

Zakah: To give 2.5% of our savings to charity annually – to remember that wealth is a gift from Allah, and to remember those less fortunate than us.

Sawm: To fast during daylight hours in one month of the lunar year called Ramadan. It can be challenging, especially in summer, but it has a good aim – to make us less gluttonous, to appreciate the food and drink we have, and to make us empathise with the starving around the world. As a result, we tend to become more charitable during this month, and it also improves our self-discipline, and helps curb bad habits like smoking. Fasting however, is about more than abstaining from oral intake; the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) stressed that that there’s little point not eating and drinking, if one is going to continue to lie, backbite and be mean to others. Ramadan is meant to be an annual spiritual invigoration, reminding us of our purpose once again – to be good to others and to submit to our Creator rather than our own desires.

Hajj: To go on a five day pilgrimage to Makkah in Saudi Arabia, once in our lifetimes if we are physically and financially able. Hajj reminds us that however rich or successful we are, we are all humble servants of Allah. The millions of people gathered for the pilgrimage must wear the same simple clothes, do the same actions, sleep on the same bare earth – no matter what their race, country, ethnicity, wealth or social status. When I went on Hajj three years ago I was deeply moved by this humbling experience of the true equality of humanity.

These four practices, plus the declaration of faith (That there is none worthy of worship except Allah and that the Prophet Muhammad is the final messenger), constitute the mandatory ‘Five Pillars of Islam‘.

Are any of these Islamic practices particularly abhorrent or evil? Where in the ‘Five pillars of Islam’ do you see the pillar, “You must kill innocent people?” That’s right, it is not there! In fact the Qur’an teaches, ‘If any one killed a person..it would be as if he killed the whole of mankind’ (Qur’an 5v32).

The Prophet Muhammad emphasised living a life of the ‘moderate, middle path’, with teachings such as ‘Never be extreme regarding religion. Many nations have been destroyed because of extremism in religion’, and ‘Do good deeds properly, sincerely and moderately.’

Islam does not ask us to be celibate or renounce the world. It tells us to live in the world, serve society, go about daily business, but with peace, kindness and mindfulness of our Creator and our intentions. With good intentions, even every day activities like greeting others cordially, performing well at work or eating healthily can become acts of worship.

All Muslims have the five pillars of Islam in common, but followers of Islam are not a homogeneous horde to be feared. In many respects Muslims are as diverse as humanity itself, coming from all countries, cultures, professions and walks of life. This diversity is to be celebrated, and the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) taught, ‘a white man has no superiority over a black man nor a black man has any superiority over a white man’. In Lincoln we have many ethnicities represented in our Muslim community, including white British people. This comes with many benefits – such as the joy of eating cuisine from all over the world at community events!


Catch up with Hafsah’s previous columns for The Lincolnite:

Hafsah Qureshi was born and raised in Lincoln. She went to Washingborough Primary School and then Priory LSST and is now a doctor working at Lincoln County Hospital. Hasfah lives in Lincoln with her husband and one-year-old son.

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